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Mike Russell: Hi, I'm Mike Russell from Music Radio Creative. Welcome to the Adobe Audition Podcast were I'm interviewing power users of Adobe Audition. We'll reminisce back to Cool Edit Pro and take you right up to date with Adobe Audition CC. If you'd like to learn about audio production – everything from vocal effects to radio imaging, commercial production to music mixing – join my next audio production course at mrc dot fm slash learn. That's mrc dot fm slash l e a r n, learn.
Mike Russell: My guest on this show is Brendan Macdonald. He is the co creator and executive producer of WTF The Podcast with Marc Maron. Not only That's Brendan is an Emmy winning producer and he's a veteran from TV radio and online media. He lives right now in Brooklyn in New York with his wife and son and of course it's fantastic Brendan to welcome you onto the show. Thanks for coming on.
Brendan McDonald: Yeah my pleasure Mike thanks for having me.
Mike Russell: So really excited to hear that you're an addition user. Tell me a little bit about how you are using Adobe Audition on a day to day basis.
Brendan McDonald: Well I use it exclusively to produce the podcast. And really that's the only program I've ever used to produce any of the audio products I've worked on it podcasting or in radio. And I've really just found that it's you know it's just like having a comfortable car that you don't want to give up it's the it's the best product for what I need to use it for and it's it's just the most comfortable fit for me.
Mike Russell: Absolutely. Makes sense. And like you say Haven't you been using it for a while. So why would you remember back to the cool days. By chance.
Brendan McDonald: Yes absolutely that was when I started using it I think it was coolheaded 2.0 about 2004 or so was when I started using on a daily basis and that was to do a radio production on a morning radio show that I did with Mark Camaron was a live morning radio and we did everything. Not only do we use cool edit edit production. We were actually firing live audio from cool attic console through the board and there was just much more reliable than the system that the station had set up. So we we found that that one was touching and failing. It was much easier for us to kind of set up a little playlist and cool it and play it right off the board. So I've just kind of been I was won over and it's had my heart ever since
Mike Russell: That's amazing. That's amazing to hear as well that actually cool it back in the day. Now Adobe Audition was more reliable than your radio stations play out system.
Brendan McDonald: Oh yeah it's not and not that surprising when I think back to it. But yes it was definitely more reliable
Mike Russell: Absolutely. And so back in the day when you were you were working with Marcom radio. Were you editing together calls and bits and soundbites. Cool I didn't doing all that kind of stuff.
Brendan McDonald: Yeah it was mostly primarily for like production for bits and you know we would we that that was a great thing about it this week was 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. morning show. And a lot of times you know we get in at 3:00 4:00 in the morning and talk about something discover something funny and then say like hey let's do record that do a little bit around that. And the cool at it. Now Adobe is just so so quick and user intuitive that we could turn things around really fast. And that was that was one of the big reasons I think I just it just stuck with me especially as I got into podcasting realized I had to know basically do this all on my own and have a certain comfort level with the software and whatever equipment I was using it made it that much more important that was a product that was familiar to me and usable.
Mike Russell: Definitely. No I agree. And certainly from my experience working in radio most radio stations that I walk into when you walk into the production studio there is Adobe Audition available to use to either you say produce bits edit calls or of course produce station imaging. And I'm curious obviously you're using Adobe Audition now to edit WTU with Meran. Do you think Adobe Audition is a bit of a standard piece of software you think most podcast producers are using this software.
Brendan McDonald: I mean I would hope they work. What I find that I often get asked by people who are starting out is like you know do I need to learn Pro Tools right or do I need you know there's just some some expectation that there is a high level of audio dexterity that's needed to do this and Mike do you know like in general like kind of Microsoft Word interface. Are you familiar with something like that when you're doing word processing or Excel spreadsheets. Is that comfortable to you. And the answer is usually yes. And now Mike we're great. Go download Adobe edition and start working on that because that is that's what you need to use you need something that's got you know a very intuitive simple interface and you know you just you don't need to be working across eight channels you know or whatever it is even though you can obviously. But the the the basis the simplicity and it really is a virtue. I don't know a lot of people think that that's damning with faint praise. I think it's a total virtue of the program that it is simple and direct
Mike Russell: I'm interested now too. Before we hopped back into Adobe Audition. How you using some of your favorite parts of the software. Let's talk more about you and your career. Brendan as obviously a podcast producer and before that working in radio and some of the projects you've worked on and perhaps even some of your hopes and aspirations for the future. Let's start maybe with a challenging project that you've taken on as a producer. Why something that really pushed you to your limits whether that was you or your brain power or the fact that you were maybe staying up all night to get a project completed or something with lots of moving parts. What would that be for you.
Brendan McDonald: Well I would say those are like I'm often staying up late to get to get stuff done. I'm often challenged by myself in that I want something to sound better and saw go about ways of making that happen. I tend to like those the most though like they don't strike me as like challenges that stick with me in a traumatic way. They're like oh I can't believe I got through that one. It's almost like I pushed myself toward making things a little more. You know I don't want to say difficult that's not the word just you know you know requiring a little more skill than just a straightforward edit. I would say the hardest challenges are when the recording is not up to snuff like that. Those are the times where I find that I'm having to make better use of the reduction tools in the program or you know I'm I'm I'm just generally less comfortable when I feel like oh no this is this source material going to gonna hold up. Does this cut the mustard and I'm less concerned when it's a challenge in terms of like producing a more overwhelming sonic palette like that. That stuff is fun to me I enjoy that. So you know I can think of plenty of times where I've been given a recording you know that that I'm like oh man this sounds rough.
Mike Russell: Yeah particularly like you say when you come across Ordi is not up to scratch and clearly you have to make a call as the executive producer of the podcast whether that audio is going to be good and whether the listeners are going to enjoy listening to that whether they're going to find it harder or unintelligible to find out what the the guest or the person is saying. Do you ever get situations where you simply say oh I've got to hand that piece of audio. I've got to go back to ever recorded and asked them to record again.
Brendan McDonald: We've only had one situation where we actually can somebody was literally unusable was a you know was there was just complete degradation of the of the audio. We have one situation where I thought that was going to be the case. And I personally could not fix it. And we kind of put out an all points bulletin on that saying anybody who's had experience restoring audio you know please help. And we got to help whether it was you know one that we didn't think we were going to salvage and we did
Mike Russell: Now with the podcast WITF with Merin you have achieved some amazing things including I think most famously very recently is the interview with President Obama in the in the shed. What a fantastic episode. Do you want to tell me before I ask you about your cool aspirations for the future. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that episode and what it was like to be a producer on that particular episode.
Brendan McDonald: Yeah. I mean it was you know for for a couple of guys who started this with no expectations and had the idea that you know it would be a nice side project for us as we rolled along with our other various career ventures. It was I would say fairly unexpected that something like that should happen. And you know as a producer on it it wasn't that there's a there's a certain element of it where you don't change up too much in that you feel like if your skill set brought you to this point it should carry you through in a moment. That's of greater magnitude but obviously there are so many more moving parts to that. There were you know a lot more people involved. Like I mentioned to you when we first were talking that you know it's still it's a it's a it's a pretty small operation. Myself and Mark Rich just the two of us you know do to do a show with the full cooperation of the White House and all their communications staff and all the Secret Service and and everyone that travels with that presidential motorcade. It was quite the production. And I think you know the fact there was on our turf definitely helped it. It left us in a comfort zone that we knew we could control. We we definitely had a lot of backups running that day. Case anything were to go down
Mike Russell: I was going to ask you about that. Yeah. Because the last thing you want to do as a punk cast is lose the audience. Tell it. Tell me a little bit more about the backups you had running. Did you have backups of backups of backups.
Brendan McDonald: Yeah well we usually have one backup running which is just a zoom HD recorder that Mark runs directly into his board and captures the file raw like that. We on that day we used a zoom that was not plugged into any any power source and not running into the board that we just had an external Mike that was like our third emergency background backup that could you know in the case of like a massive Los Angeles wide power failure we'd still be able to go
Mike Russell: That's amazing. So Brendan you really thought of every eventuality even in case of Palikot the president wouldn't have to rerecord or re say whatever you didn't want to be that guy. She had to say Excuse me Mr. President but we just lost the last 15 minutes of Odia would you mind starting from the top
Brendan McDonald: Yeah I definitely don't want to be that guy because I know that if I had said that the answer would have been well that's too bad They were not going to be giving you they weren't going to be adding time onto the president's schedule because the two guys in their garage could figure out how to make the recording happen.
Mike Russell: Very cool indeed. So let's talk about maybe one cool project that you'd like to work on perhaps that you haven't told anyone about yet.
Brendan McDonald: Yeah that's interesting to think about because it just has so immersed in the podcast you know we do two a week and it's you know it's been going on for nine years now and this is late. So it really is that thing that's in my foreground all the time. I don't I actually wind up pushing a lot of projects away just because I don't like to get distracted from it. You know every now and then I can do a little additional work for something I find interesting. But in terms of actually having something aspirational to work on I don't have something specific I would say that you know what I've always thought would be cool specifically as an audio producer is to work on a film. You know I just a lot of times feel like the type of stuff I've done at my best in audio stuff that I also admire in watching film and and admiring the sound design and the sound effects and the editing. So I get that kind of aspirational you know take your pick of a dream job wish that you could do that. That's something I would love to do.
Mike Russell: You already like that. Yeah totally different skill set. I would imagine that you'd be using from punk casting. Definitely. So let's talk about how you go into all the little by Brendan and what the point was for you when you realized that this is something you're going to be doing. So what is your path straight from childhood studies into radio. Is that how you got started in the radio industry.
Brendan McDonald: I mean you know I don't ever think I thought to myself as a child man. I can't wait to be on the radio or even working with audio. It really wound up happening when I was in school I was at Fordham University here in New York and they have a fantastic radio station that I just thought it would be cool to work at like I had a work study job. And I thought well you know why go sit in the computer lab and you know scrub hard drives of all the garbage that people are putting on it. I'd rather go work at a cool job like the radio station and that was just the getting in there and it was a real open door. They were very welcoming to students. But it was run professionally. It's National Public Radio affiliate station. So you see the attitude toward making radio and you know relied on a good product to get donations from. You know as a member supported station so they were gonna let you know garbage get on the air. But they were going to help students to make good product. And just from doing that I was I was in once that started happening I you know I've never not had a job in production since since school.
Mike Russell: That's amazing what is if he really sort of sexual world on fire about working with is the one thing in particular that you just really enjoy the fires you up sort of fuels your passion back to the interview in a moment but if you want to in my perfect audio create a set up head over to see dots FMS slash when.
Brendan McDonald: Well I think I always wanted to make stuff like in a in a consumable way and I didn't have exactly a fine point on that. I know I had you know I had a background in doing theater productions in school. I had a eye for a while was a newscaster on the radio here in New York. So I always liked the idea of I'm putting something out in the world that other people are taking in immediately. There was that was the reaction I wanted I wanted to get the gratification of like I did this. And people heard it right away or saw it or read it you know I think I would have been on a path to do something like that and it just so happened that being in getting trained in radio drew a very clear picture of how to accomplish that. And then I was able to while working in a kind of fine tune well what do I actually like in terms of doing this and you know as I mentioned doing newscasts as a news newsreader on the air it took maybe two years for me to figure it out but I did figure out that that was not my comfort zone and I would be much happier creating the product and being able to utilize the talents of others to bring those in and and and create something in a more collaborative environment which is where I think the best work happens.
Mike Russell: And you mentioned nine years ago the amazing nine years ago when you got started with that podcast you know two guys producing a podcast and you never would have imagined where it would go. And you thought maybe this will be something on the side while I'm doing something else. So now that you are here nine years on and you've got the previous experience from radio how does it compare now producing the radio show back in the day and now producing the podcast in terms of what you are doing and the amount of joy and pleasure you are getting. And of course the kind of feedback you are getting from your listening audience as well.
Brendan McDonald: All of that stuff the external stuff is all worlds better. It's you know if you were to kind of define a dream job for me when I was a radio producer or working in network radio or satellite radio you know it would be along the lines of what I do now I can work on my own time I can work in my own locations wherever I choose. I don't have the pressures of programming initiatives that come down on me and say you know this is how the next X amount of time is supposed to be in this business and you need to make it sound like this like the freedom of those things is it is worth more than anything and you know it's it's as different as going from you know going from a horse and buggy to a car as far as I'm concerned. However when I put the headphones on and just do the work that's no different. I mean that's just that's one of the things I think it's so great about what I do is that like I have moments all the time where I get like a sense memory of being like 24 and doing the same type of thing like discovering like all my guys made this thing sound like that that's so great. Like I still get those moments. I still feel good about it and it doesn't feel a lot different. And I think to loop back to what the whole reason we're talking I think a big reason for that is is that I work on the same platform I'm using the same software. It definitely helps keep it normalized for me
Mike Russell: Definitely. That's that's cool yeah. And you like you say you've grown with the software and the software has grown with you over time introducing so many more features particularly now with the creative cloud. I'm curious then overall Isaam you've worked with Adobe Audition if you had to pick just one feature from the software that you would say this is your favorite feature. What would that be.
Brendan McDonald: Well it's very simple but I will save the snap feature has saved my life. Like I I just there's so many times where I have there are times where I have accidentally turned it off and it just it's like walking into a parallel dimension to to to go like oh my gosh just does not work as well for me anymore like what happened. Oh snap is off. That's right. That's what happened. So I mean that's a very very simple rudimentary thing but I tell you without it I just would I would probably go find a different product.
Mike Russell: Well that's cool. Okay so how are you using the snapping feature. How is that helping you.
Brendan McDonald: Well you know with so many that we don't have a very virtuous stick show it's not like there's I'm not editing off tons of tracks or anything but I like precision. Right. And I think any good editor probably would say the same thing. And so my feeling is I I know exactly where I need something to come in. I need something to start or I need something to stop and just being able to kind of set that marker and then slide something to that without the worry of did I get that right. It definitely saves me hours like plural. I got you know like I said I've had situations where I've had to add it without it and it doesn't it doesn't work for me.
Mike Russell: Absolutely no make sense and yeah it just makes it easier if he snaps to the point that you need to get to in the audio with these so yeah having that little magnet icon illuminati's. It's a great thing. So obviously from you know when you're working on the podcast sometimes you're working with you know hours of digital audio to time inside Adobe Audition. You must avoid some pretty good workflows and timesaving shortcuts to get you through that part of your process. As the executive producer of the show so maybe you can share with us some of the workflows and shortcuts you are using yourself. Brendan
Brendan McDonald: Well I would say the biggest thing that you know you get called a shortcut. I would almost just call it like a you know it's a trick or it's a shorthand of how podcasts can best utilize the platforming and the distribution services that are out there for us and it's largely because I knew so much about audition already. Once I had once we started the podcast in 2009 I had a lot of experience with how things sounded on the air depending on the bit rate and the sample type and just generally the kind of sonic makeup of the show and how it was affected by compression. And so when we started doing the podcast I kind of developed a little secret sauce in terms of the bit rate the sample type just the format settings in general that kept the size of the file relatively manageable and still listen ible and I kind of point this out to anyone who's doing a fairly straightforward spoken word podcast. Don't go crazy like you're not producing you know something for MP 3 quality audio for listening to on your Bose headphones like make sure that people are using their data Or not you know having to tap into 100 megs to get your show. So you know I keep a sample tape at 22 050 I save everything Amano it's 16 bit and 40 caused a bit rate of 40 and that gives us a show that's usually roughly about 20 megs when we started podcasting that was 20 megs that the iPhone would download the show for you otherwise you had to sync it you had to literally plug in your iPhone and sync it to iTunes off of your desktop.
Brendan McDonald: And so that was my main motivation for keeping the file size down. Now I've been told that it has saved us considerably in the realm of accounting for our audience numbers that there were a lot of fraudulent accounts across the podcasting landscape due to buffering issues that caused large file shows to to count as more than one listener. So like if you were listening to an hour long show but it was 100 megs that might count five times to your audience numbers. And when this correction was made to to kind of re adjust the way that the platform services were were counting actual listens. You know there shows the lost 75 percent of what they thought was their audience it was not their audience they were being misled but they found a lot of their audience numbers what they thought were their numbers went away and it was just simply because their files were too large. So it was kind of through the virtue of having a very kind of anal retentive attitude towards the size of the file and the format settings back in 2009. We've kept a pretty manageable file size that didn't get overcounted so I've been very happy about that and I was happy that I knew to do that when we started podcasting
Mike Russell: I like that. And it just goes to show you because the audio quality of the podcast is very good. So it's yeah. When you're working with speech callers the audio and you can compress. My goodness that must be like an hour or so worth of audio into 20 megabytes. That's a ridiculously small fall. But yes super helpful for people downloading particularly on slow connections as well as in other parts of the world where gigabit or fiber is not a thing. I mean 20 20 megabytes definitely is pretty good so you really are considering the world wide audience that is out there with podcasting so really really awesome workflow there particularly for saving podcast audio and I think a lot of people listening to the show right now will kind of be noting down all of your settings they use at 22 050 Hertz monos 16 bit 40 IKB B.S. Sibiya. Which is brilliant for a long form speech. Amazing stuff. Now I'm really excited to get stuck into this question with Brendan and that's all your resources and your gear if you can that you're using to make this great sounding audio someday we can talk. I did a mix audio interfaces. I don't know any web resources you've got four effects and music share what it is you're using to make the podcast sound good.
Brendan McDonald: Yeah. Well equipment wise it's very simple and we really haven't changed much has evolved slightly but you know the general components are the same. We use sugar FM 7 microphones and Sennheiser headphones. Everything goes through old school analog Samsen mixer which I don't think they even make the one that we use anymore. The MDR six but any mixer will do we just that's like one of Marks. Like I said before the idea of like having the car you're comfortable with is just what he's comfortable with. Just have a kind of regular ole 5 channel headphone mixer. I think his head AMP run everything through MacBook Pro. We record into garage band. That's again just because of Mark's preference but he sends me a wave file or a file and I just added that directly in Adobe in terms of other things that I'm using. I get to go fairly back to my roots in radio that I have a pretty substantial CD library of sound effects of bumpers of the type of interstitial stuff that I can use for production needs. Should I need it a lot of times and weird self generating those things those very things namely like bumpers like Mark records his on music to use as bumpers and you know we are a very good show in terms of sound effects and sound design on that level so. But when I need it I have those things at the ready. I also am not above just going on a kind of Internet hunt for good things to use but in the normalized sense I just go and reach up off a shelf
Mike Russell: Brilliant brilliant stuff so yes some good resources there for effects and music and obviously the mic the headphones and the the the mix and board you're using that. So just finally to wrap up this has been a really great show Brendan and I really appreciate you spending the time here today. I'd like you to speak to that person listening now who's young aspiring. They want to get into this audio world. Maybe they are inspired to create their own podcast or or produce a podcast with someone else. What would be your advice to that person listening now in that position.
Brendan McDonald: Or do as much work as you can on your own. You know the the the the resources are there for you to do that and just have something you know whatever workstation you're comfortable with. Be that a laptop or a desktop or a tablet and you know just do as much as you can build your calling card based on your comfortability level and your ability to to kind of navigate the product that you're using make it your own. And also I would say like you know there's there's going to be so many more things I guess everybody talks about going from like oh you went from radio to podcasting was a big jump and it was like it was the logical progression. And I'm very comfortable where I'm at I'm at a point where like I can kind of slow down a bit but the person who's coming into these emerging media and really trying to lasso something that works for them there's probably something that's kind of brand new. I was just speaking with some of the other day saying that Instagram stories are kind of the new hot media property that people are going to start hiring for.
Brendan McDonald: And you know I don't know much about that I don't use the product. But man if there is a way you can kind of make yourself expert in that. And part of that includes you know having high production values higher than higher than the last person so that you can kind of show off your stuff. And if part of that is learning how to be a good audio editor so that you can again have a leg up in the competition and show that you have skills that are marketable and presentable. That's great and you can do that on your own like you know to again go back to the entire reason we're having this conversation. I'm self-taught on Adobe. Going back to school days and it was it was so fun to be able to teach myself the product. And it's so easy to do that that I've never left. So I think a lot of people are in that position if they're just wondering how to do it. Just sit down and do it and do as much as you can on your own and doing the doing stuff the way you like
Mike Russell: Nonschool I really like that and yeah just sort of coming off the edge of your last point there. Brenda when you were talking about you know looking for the next thing and always looking so obviously his going from radio into podcasting and then these Instagram stories. Something else. Do I understand correctly that you have an Alexa flash briefing skill
Brendan McDonald: Yes that's right. We just got that added that was through our through our pod cast distribution host libs in their arrangement with Amazon. They selected I think 30 shows to have an Alexa skill. And so yeah that's cool. And again like I'm I've been this way since we started that I've it's been very unlikely that I have turned down some type of new or emerging technology or or or platforming opportunity just because you know nobody knows where this is going it's it's going in so many different directions at once it's best to just be involved in as many as possible. At least that's my philosophy.
Mike Russell: Excellent. So look up w t f pod subscribe to WITF pod on your Amazon Alexa. Well that's brilliant. Thank you so much for all the information and sharing your your knowledge and your time and your nine years in the production of WITF with ma Marin. It's been a fascinating and inspiring conversation. And just for anyone Nale who would like to look you up and maybe connect with you online. Is the best place to find you.
Brendan McDonald: Well the show is heard at WITF Pade dot com and iTunes and all other podcasting platforms. My visibility is on Twitter. However limited but I'm producer McKirdy. MC D on Twitter
Mike Russell: Awesome Brendan thank you so much for joining me.
Brendan McDonald: Ok. My pleasure. Mike.
Mike Russell: That concludes this episode would you like an extra chance to win the awesome audio gear giveaway. Subscribe and review this podcast. Then e-mail it details to podcast at MRC dot fm for an extra entry into the awesome Oreo giveaway. Good luck.
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